RED CAP (2003)

Directed by: David Richards

Writing credits: Patrick Harbinson
(other writing credits include: ER, DARK ANGEL, SHARPE, HORNBLOWER)

Starring: Tamzin Outhwaite, Douglas Hodge, James Thornton, Gordon Kennedy

Running time: (U.S.) Pilot:120 minutes, individual episodes: 60 minutes
Format: Cable TV (BBCAmerica) Rating:
Genre: Mystery/Crime drama

Reviewed by Cherie Jung

Good news. Bad news.

The good news is that a new series of episodes is said to be in the works for release in the U.K. later this year. The bad news is that it won't be available here in the States until some time NEXT year. More bad news. If you haven't already been watching the series, you only have two more weeks to catch the final episodes in "season one." For a full listing of play schedules, check out the Red Cap website on BBCAmerica. Each show has been replayed several times. (The week's "new" episode and previous week's episode are paired together and shown several times during the week.)

Red Cap refers to the color of the beret worn by soldiers in a British MP (Military Police) unit. An even more elite group, within the MPs, the SIB (Special Investigative Branch) is tasked with investigating crimes involving British military personnel, and in this case, the unit is stationed in Germany. The crimes needing solving range from drug cases to murder and are complicated by the necessity of coordinating with the local authorities who are less than thrilled to have Brits on their soil.

Sgt. Jo McDonagh has recently been transferred into the SIB unit. A bit of a loner, and trying to prove herself to her new colleagues leads her to take some risky chances. Maverick soldiers are not appreciated in the tightly knit SIB unit. McDonagh is good at what she does, but not good at playing by the rules or military protocol. No one on the team wants to work with her. They try to treat her as if she's a kid sister tagging along on the assignment. Her "truth at all costs" attitude ruffles some feathers but in the end, everyone reluctantly is forced to admit that she does know what she's doing, even if she doesn't do it their way.

Shot on location in Germany, the countryside and setting have a fresh feeling. It looks and feels like you're in Germany rather than on a back lot in Vancouver, B.C. made up to look like Germany. The German accents sound real. The secondary characters, as well as the series stars, are well chosen and strongly developed. And don't worry if you can't catch everything being said during each episode. The actors do tend to mumble at times and I've been told that even the Brits have trouble deciphering what's being said. And if you really can't stand it, you can always drop in to one of the forum discussions on the website for clarification.

This is my favorite new show. I've watched the pilot and four of the original six episodes--several times. I have no complaints. I heartily encourage both mystery fans and fans of military crime drama to watch a few episodes. You'll most likely become a fan.

Another aspect of this series that is appealing is the way the subtext of military honor, trust, integrity, and justice are interwoven with the crime solving. Unlike in the civilian arena where justice is often near-sighted, if not blind, in the military context, even the smallest of offenses may have a devastating ripple effect.

The military setting provides a completely different structure for crime solving. The glimpse into military life on a British Army base in Germany creates an interesting backdrop for the series.

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